It’s eight in the morning in New York, and 5,000 young girls are hanging out of office-building windows and crammed onto West Fifty-first Street, screaming. For conservative midtown Manhattan, this is an event. For Ricky Martin, it’s just another day at the office. This morning, it’s the Today show, where Martin is appearing on Today‘s live summer-concert series with a performance that ties up traffic for hours.
“Ever since I’ve known him,” says Robi Rosa, the co-author of Martin’s smash single “Livin’ la Vida Loca” and a former member of Menudo who roomed with Martin when Martin joined the Latin boy band, “Ricky has exuded a sense of joy.”
Not to mention organization. The twenty-seven-year-old CEO of Ricky Martin Inc. has managed his career in a way that is anything but crazy. Born on Christmas Eve 1971 in Puerto Rico to Nereida Morales and Enrique Martin III, Enrique “Kiki” Martin IV started doing TV commercials at seven. At twelve, he joined Menudo. After leaving the band at seventeen, Martin considered quitting show business. But a role in a Mexico City musical led to soap opera work there, and then to a part on General Hospital and a stint on Broadway in Les Misérables in 1996. In 1991, he began releasing a string of four solo albums, which sold a total of 15 million copies worldwide.
He did not work alone. “When Ricky called me, about 1993, saying he wanted to do a Latin album, I was surprised,” says Rosa, whom Martin calls his “Latin soul” — a bit of a dark one, at that. “Ricky and I are as much alike as Julio Iglesias and Sid Vicious,” Rosa says with a laugh. A little Sid Vicious is clearly what Martin knew he needed; it was a song Rosa co-wrote, “Maria,” that broke Martin in Spain and the rest of Europe.
But it wasn’t until February that America heard the beat itself. Martin’s hip-popping rendition of “The Cup of Life” at the Grammys brought even that jaded audience to its Manolo Blahnik-shod feet. In May, when his first English-language album, Ricky Martin, was released, it shot into the top of the charts at Number One and hasn’t left since. Neither has Martin.
Hard to believe it’s been only six months since you took America by storm at the Grammys.
For me, it was yesterday. But instead of grabbing America by storm, America caught me. Ever since, I’ve been living, literally, la vida loca — the crazy life. Although I must admit I’ve been in a spin for the last two years — since I started working on the crossover from the Latin market to Europe and then Asia.
You seem to be running a very well-thought-out career.
Thank you. Once Latin America started working, people asked, “Why Europe now? Why go into Asia before America? Start in the U.S. and you go, ‘Boom.’ You took the bumpy road.” Let’s put it this way: America is like my doctorate degree. Europe and Asia — there I did my master’s.
After the Grammys, Madonna suggested a duet, which appears on your new album. Had you met before?
When she was in Argentina shooting Evita, I was doing concerts. We stayed in the same hotel, and my fans are noticeable [laughs]. But it was after the Grammys that we got together.
So the two of you had chemistry?
From the get-go. It was [finger snap], “Feels good!” We had only fifteen days until the release of my album. I was biting my nails, but Madonna was very comfortable to work with, very flexible.
How much time did you have to work on the song?
Ten days, on and off. She’s very smart and honest. I learned a lot from her, but she’s also willing to learn.